STRAIGHT TALK ON AMENDING THE CONSTITUTION

Q:

I agree that the national debt is a problem, but do we really need a constitutional amendment to handle it?

A:

Nothing less than an amendment is sufficient to stop more horrible debt from piling up. Congress has not done so. Presidents have not done so. The problem has been called, “deficit attention disorder” by Thomas Hazlett. The Federal debt is now increasing by over a billion dollars each day. Sounds like a problem. Proposed amendments reasonably provide for exceptions to a balanced budget in times of war or economic crisis.

What would end huge annual deficits? Telling politicians to balance the budget did not work. Having more meetings in Washington did not work. Everything considered, there is just one solution. A mandatory permanent change in how government spends your money is required. The strongest, most basic change is a constitutional amendment. Even Congress can't sneak around that. If Congressmen and Presidents do not have to balance the budget, they never will.

Q:

Would an amending convention go off track and get into other areas of the Constitution than the federal budget?

A:

A few people have a paranoid fear of a balanced budget convention. They see hobgoblins in the shadows conjuring up conspiracies. All the while, a very real and very obvious problem, the runaway national debt is overlooked.

On any given day Congress can propose any change they like to the Constitution. Have you ever lost a moment's sleep worrying about the fact that Congress has the power to propose constitutional amendments? Congress has had the power of a constitutional convention for over 200 years. So it's a bit late to worry about a political body existing that can propose amendments. By the way, notice that a convention, and also Congress, can only propose amendments. Thirty-eight states must pass any proposed constitutional amendment before it becomes law. Only a good and necessary amendment has a chance of passing a test like that.

Everyone who is aware of the balanced budget convention understands full well that the convention is being called for one reason. States do not pass legislation saying, we want a convention, but who knows what for. To point out the obvious, thousands of elected state legislators are not conspiring and lying when they say they want a convention exclusively to propose a federal balanced budget amendment. State leaders have made commitments to consider only the one issue they called the convention for.

Will state legislators, elected by the people, carefully amend the American Constitution? Let's look at the historical record for an answer. States have adopted balanced budget amendments, and thousands of other amendments to state constitutions, over centuries. The states have improved their constitutions. Which states experienced dire results in the process? None.

Q:

Some people are critical of any effort to change the Constitution. What about that?

A:

First, let's note that the Constitution has already been amended 27 times. It has been and will be changed. The nation presently needs to fix a serious chronic problem.

Second, there are convention critics who say they love the Constitution and revere the Founding Fathers. Yet some of these people want to rip out an important section of the Constitution, Article V. They use dismissive terms for a constitutional convention, and say state leaders should not even gather and talk about a balanced budget amendment. Who do these anti-convention folks suppose wrote the Article V provision for an amending convention into the Constitution? The Founding Fathers did. The Founding Fathers wisely wanted checks and balances on Congress, so that we the people, through our elected state representatives could amend our Constitution if Congress did not face up to its responsibility. The absence of responsibility is precisely the situation we are in now with outrageous deficits.

The 1787 constitutional convention was quite different than a contemporary amending convention would be. More than two hundred years later the people, the circumstances, and the goal have greatly changed. However, our Constitution may yet again save our nation from disaster. Thousands of conventions are organized every year in America. Organizing a balanced budget convention can be done and it should be done. 

The Founding Fathers would have been shocked at current financial irresponsibility. How do we know that? They never ran up the kind of debt we owe today. It was out of the question. In choosing between the vision of the Founding Fathers and the opinions of today's critics of an amending convention, stand with the Founding Fathers. The convention is fully consistent with the American philosophy of limited government, federalism, checks and balances. 

Q:

Are federal government finances actually in such a big mess?

A:

Yes. There are persons who don't quite get it, but the federal debt really is a big deal. The Government Accountability Office states that the federal government has already promised to pay tens of trillions of dollars more than it will have. These unfunded liabilities, in programs such as Social Security and Medicare, deepen our current problem. Much of our debt is owed to foreign nations, giving them leverage and power over us. One day there will be an economic shock, such as when investors panic about the reality that the federal government cannot pay its bills. This will be accompanied by a crisis of confidence. This has happened in other countries. Investors won't loan the government more money. The federal government will become legally bankrupt. Citizens will scream: “Why didn't somebody see this coming?” “Why didn't somebody do something?” We can see the crash coming. The time to do something is now.

Liberals and progressives should consider this. The United States government is the world's largest debtor, ever. Enormous federal deficit spending will end. It will happen after a national financial crash, in which the poor and those dependent on government will be hurt the most, as in Greece. Or due to a balanced budget amendment, the federal budget will be brought into a slow and reasonable balance. Which outcome is best?  

There are individuals who believe the national debt does not affect them. Guess who pays the interest on the debt? The name is on your tax return. The debt is over 18,000 billion dollars. A billion dollars is 1,000 million dollars. We're talking real money here. You have less money today because of this expense. All of us do. The government once borrowed money to pay for something long since forgotten, and now you shall pay interest on that borrowed money forever. Not a very good deal is it? Want to see the national debt? Look in your wallet. What is not there, that should be there, is what the debt looks like. Government debt costs you a lot of money.

Americans in earlier times were financially poor in comparison to us. Yet they never ran up astronomical debts with the intention of dumping them on future generations, us. Americans today do not have the same high standards.

Do we want to be a nation of deadbeats who don't pay their bills? Do we want to manage this nation's finances like a third world banana republic? Do we want to experience the modern equivalent of the Great Depression? Are the days of America's greatness over?

As a nation, we can have a future of uncontrolled debt, with bankruptcy and weakness, or we can have a future of disciplined budgeting, with a healthy and strong economy. Which future will we choose?